Category Archives: Just Thoughts

Good Morning, I Love You

I first heard of Dr. Shauna Shapiro on the Being Well Podcast. The ideas she presented are something I would have considered “sappy” and “unmasculine” not very long ago.

But I was intrigued, and have started reading her book, “Good Morning, I Love You.” Normally I wouldn’t write about a book until I’ve finished it, but there have already been a couple of things that really struck me.

Here’s one of them:

“We must change our mindset from one of self-improvement to one of self-liberation. Self-liberation means freedom from our limiting beliefs, our misguided idea that there is something wrong with us that needs to be “fixed.””

Which reminds me of something I’ve heard from Steven Hayes (paraphrasing this one) : You and your life aren’t problems to be solved, but processes to be experienced.

I’ve lived most of my life as a “personal development” addict. But the only thing that I’ve stuck to developing is a vast knowledge of personal development material. Just like food, sex, alcohol, most drugs, shopping, gambling… all the stuff that we do, but some go over the line and abuse them rather than use them – that’s what I did with personal development. I had good intentions (I think), but I used it as a distraction from life rather than as a way to engage with life. Embarrassingly, I also used my “vast knowledge” (which was 99% bullshit) so that I could feel good about myself – of course I was better than all of the people out there who didn’t care about “getting better” (whatever that means).

Liberating my mind. Moving from self-improvement to self-liberation. That’s the direction I’m going to point myself in today.

I said there were two things that struck me so far. I’ll write a second post about that one soon. A little teaser – it’s what motivated me to write this post in the first place.

 

Past to Future

Warning – super self indulgent me me me post coming up.

Maybe it will help someone out there, if only to let them know that others are out here, we’ve seen some shit ourselves, we’ve been able to move through it, and we care.

This morning, I had the thought that the way I’ve been living has been just plain wrong. I’m going to hit 50 this year, and I’m still ugly, sick, broke, and stupid.

Then, another thought: maybe the things I’ve been doing have been working perfectly. Everything I’ve ever done, everything I’ve experienced from the time I was able to make decisions for myself has brought me to where I am today.

Of course, there are some things that happened to me that I had no control over. Those brought me here too. But I had no control over them, so I couldn’t have “done” them differently anyway – I didn’t do them in the first place. Therefore… no fucks for them.

But…

If I hadn’t gotten so drunk and high before the concert I was supposed to play the lead for my senior year in high school that I passed out just beforehand and couldn’t go on…

If I hadn’t engaged in sexual behavior that was ridiculously physically risky and financially devastating to both me and those who bailed me out…

If I hadn’t gotten myself kicked out of the Navy because I was too scared to commit to sobriety…

If I hadn’t spent most of the 90’s (and some of the 2000’s) in various mental hospitals and rehabs…

If I hadn’t forced my family to move halfway across the country to get away from me…

If I hadn’t run away from more jobs than I’ve had…

… I wouldn’t been where I am today.

… I wouldn’t be *who* I am today.

And you know what?

I like where I am today.

I like who I am today.

I’m not successful by the standards of the marketers of my society, but I’m (finally) ok with that. I’m generally happy. Content, yet still have a desire to grow and improve.

Let’s go over that list that Jim Rohn said to avoid becoming:

Ugly? Really?

Objectively, probably not. But objectivity about one’s physical appearance isn’t possible – eye of the beholder and so forth. Can’t really control that one, barring plastic surgery. So let’s drop ugly into the no fucks given category and move on to…

Broke? Really?

Sure, if you look at it from a straight up financial point of view, a net worth of -30K is pretty forking broke. (Shout out to my fellow Good Place fans!)

But holy shit, I *live* in the goddamn Good Place… *and* I get to fucking curse!

I get to experience:

A wife who I love and who loves me. She’s my best friend and my soulmate.

Family that I love, and who love me.

No shortage of good food to eat, both nutritious and otherwise.

A pretty nice roof over my head.

An income that provides me all of the basics, plus some creature comforts.

Both activities and medication that allow me to maintain my physical and mental health.

That last one seems like a good segue into…

Sick? Really?

From a purely physical point of view, I’ve been blessed with a naturally strong constitution. It’s amazing how healthy I am, considering all of the crazy stuff that I’ve put myself through.

On the mental side, I’m so fucking lucky it’s unbelievable. (BTW, if you don’t think there’s such a thing as depression or mental illness, fuck off now, go educate yourself, and come back when you aren’t an ignorant dingleberry.)

I’m lucky enough to have been born at a time when there is medication that exists that has helped me with my Bipolar II disorder, and to have been born into a part of society where that medication is available to me. AND to have been born at a time and in a place where there are scientifically backed therapeutic resources for people like me.

And finally…

Stupid? Really?

No. I’m not. I’ve done some pretty stupid things, but I’m not stupid. Not that the thought that I’m a dumbass doesn’t still pop into my head from time to time – I just no longer identify with it.

One of the things that I value is the alleviation of suffering, and the increase of fulfillment in the universe for all sentient beings (hat tip to Shinzen Young for the suffering/fulfillment thing).

Maybe one of the ways that I can do that is to share self-absorbent posts like these, to let others know that no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you, you can use it as a stepping stone to a better live, both for you and others.

There’s a line in the Big Book of AA that says “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” It’s a beautiful place to be in. You can be there to, if you keep on moving toward it, no matter how slow you go.

 

Inner Critic or Inner Coach

Have you ever come across a tiny distinction that immediately changed the way you look at things?

This happened to me recently when I was listening to Episode #219: Making and Breaking Habits, Sanely of the Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris. The guest was Kelly McGonigal, and something she said hit me hard:

“Why would you let your inner critic decide what it is you want to change?”

We all want to change something about our lives. Quit an addiction, exercise more, eat better, etc etc etc…

As a general rule, and especially if the thing you want to change is extra tough, it’s best to stick to one at a time.

But how do you choose exactly what to work on?

Don’t follow your inner critic. Do Follow your values, those things that are intrinsically meaningful to you, and link them to the behavior you want to change.

McGonigal calls the part of us that tries to shame us into change the Inner Critic. I can’t help but compare this to Steven Hayes’ Dictator Within.

But it doesn’t matter what you call it. This Inner Critical Dictator evolved to make sense of and help you survive in a hostile environment. It’s not interested in helping you create the life you want.

Here’s a few questions that are worth thinking about:

What are your values? How can you link them to your goals? Who is it that’s choosing those values and goals?

Four Mantras To Help You Become Who You Want To Be

Back in November of 2018, I wrote about my personal experience with positive affirmations – Don’t Affirm – ACT. (TLDR – affirmations bad, action good)

Over the past few days (well, it’s actually been weeks now since I started the first draft of this article), I’ve been thinking about something – I do use affirmations, but I wouldn’t call them positive ones.

Instead of “affirmation”, I prefer using the word “mantra.” I’m not the first to call them that, and there are other words that you can use as a description if “mantra” is too woo-woo new-agey for you.

I like it because of one of the definitions I’ve heard – “Mind Tool.” These phrases are tools to condition your mind and help you to become who you want to be.

Here are a few that I’ve found useful. All were passed on to me by Brian Johnson via his Optimize program. Maybe you’ll find them useful too.


1. “Bring It On”

This is my go-to when I need to get myself to do what I don’t feel like doing because of the fear of pain. The full mantra is:

“Bring it on! I love pain! Pain sets me free!”

It’s done at the top of my mental lungs – yep, I yell at myself in my head. In a kind way, of course.

It originally came from a book called “The Tools”, and it’s supposed to activate some sort of life force or somesuch thing (way too woo-woo for my taste, honestly).

Regardless of the explanation for why it works, it does work for me. But…

What about the whole “Lying to ourselves is the reason that affirmations don’t work? Do you really love pain?”

Depends on how you look at it. I definitely don’t love pain for pains sake. I *do* love pain when it helps me to grow as a person. When we look at pain in this way (not as something to be avoided, but as something to be loved) it changes the dynamic of the mantra. It changes the life we live.

Here’s a great video of Brian explaining the whole process.

2. “That’s Like Me!”

This one is used whenever we do something that you want to do again – anything from correctly performing a practical skill to acting in a way that lines up with your values.

This is an affirmation in the original sense of the word – We are reminding ourselves of the truth. When you do something right, in that moment, you are like the person you want to be. And by affirming that, you are telling your brain “More of that, please!”

I’ve written more about this particular mantra (as well as the next one) here.

3. “Needs Work”

The sibling of “That’s like me”, Loki to it’s Thor. When you do something dumb, unskillful, something that violates your values – that one “Need’s Work.” Do NOT use this to beat yourself up. It’s not a huge deal, but enough of a deal to recognize that what you just did needs to be improved in some way.

So again, an affirmation in the classical sense – yup, you done messed up. Useless to take a hammer to your psyche. Useful to recognize that you are off course and need to correct.

For consistency’s sake, here’s that “Needs Work” and “That’s Like Me!” post one more time.

4. “Do It Now”

This is the newest of my mantras. It’s a little different than the others, since I’m specifically working with it every morning (I keep forgetting to in the evenings – more on that below). It only takes about a minute, two minutes max, and is practiced when you first get up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.

This is a specific directive to your mind – a direct order to Do It Now.

(Whoops, I forgot to do it this morning! And when reviewing the material on it I realized that I haven’t done it in the evening in a while. That’s the hardest thing about all of this stuff – remembering to put it into practice. So I’ll do it now and be back in about a minute… OK, I’m back. It’s been less than a minute.)

Here’s how to do it:

Repeat the phrase “Do It Now!” to yourself at least 50 times, immediately after you get up in the morning and just before you go to bed at night. The minimum number of times is 50. When you forget to, you Do It Now.

I’ve been doing it since I first saw Brian Johnson’s (hilarious!) video on the subject. I also installed an app on my phone (Tap Counter Manager) to help me keep track of the number of times I repeat it.

A funny thing is happening – when procrastination hits, sometimes the phrase pops into my head and gets me moving. It doesn’t pop into my head all the time, and I don’t always follow it into action (a great time to “Bring It On!”), but I’d be willing to bet that … no, I’m positive that I’m getting more done because of one.


Those are my four favorite mind tools for become who I want to be: Bring It On! – That’s Like Me! – Needs Work – Do It Now!

Do you have any favorites that you like to use? Feel free to drop them in the comments – I’d love to learn about them.

Seriously… Do It Now!

 

“Needs Work” and “That’s Like Me!”

One of the most useful tools that I learned while subscribed to Brian Johnson’s Optimize program was the “Needs Work”/”That’s Like Me!” idea.

Brian learned it from Lanny Bassham‘s book “With Winning In Mind.”

It’s billed as a self esteem/self image building tool – but I don’t think that’s completely accurate. Trying to artificially build our self esteem can have disastrous results, both to ourselves and to those around us.

I think of it (and use it) as a method to push out of a fixed mindset and into a growth mindset.

It’s pretty easy, actually. And I like easy.

When you do something “good” (whatever good means to you) – say to yourself “That’s like me!”

When you do something “bad” (whatever bad means to you) – say to yourself “Needs work.”

No over inflated ego. No beating the hell out of yourself. Just a couple of statements of fact.

This can be used for nearly anything – I’ve used it when learning to drive one of the lift machines at work while being terrified that I was going to kill someone by knocking over all of the racking in the warehouse (like this). Whenever I placed a pallet correctly – “That’s like me!” Whenever my aim was off – “Needs work.”

I’ve also used it in relationships. When I’m not my best self to those that I love – “Needs work.” When I notice myself being kind and loving toward others – “That’s Like Me!”

It can be used when you are writing an article for your blog and the part of your brain that would rather be laying in front of the TV decides that it’s time to quit starts yammering away, but you keep putting words on the screen anyway – “That’s Like Me!” Find yourself flipping over to watch videos of forklifts destroying warehouses? “Needs Work.”

Both sides of the equation are important. Without “That’s Like Me!” we may not notice that we *are* learning and growing and give up before the magic happens. Without “Needs Work” we can become complacent and think of ourselves as better than we really are.

Maybe try it for yourself? When you find yourself using it, especially the first few times, you get a double whammy of “That’s Like Me!”, one for the thing that you’re using it on and one for the using of the tool. When you notice yourself *not* using it, just remind yourself that it “Needs Work” and move on with doing the work you need to do to become that person that you want to be.

 

An Alien Among Us That’s Just Like Me

We all sometimes feel just so damn different from others. Like strangers in a strange land.

And we are. All of us are different. All of us are unique. And that’s a good thing – I’m studying this concept in my analysis/attempted discussion of “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But… at the same time, we are all the same. There are actually more similarities than differences. These similarities cross all sorts of lines: race, gender, class, intellectual ability, sexual orientation, even species. More and more, we are seeing just how similar all of life is.

That’s a good thing. Without our “sameness”, we wouldn’t be able to cooperate. Without the understanding that we all basically want the same things – to survive, to thrive, to be happy – we would never have gotten beyond life in the jungle and the caves.

Different people have different strategies, some constructive and some destructive, but they are all intended toward those same ends – survival, thriving, happiness.

Some of us have strategies that are based on the differences, geared toward the destruction (or at the very least separation) of themselves from others. This can happen on a small scale, like when I just want the person across the hall in my apartment building to leave me alone. This can happen on a large scale, when one group has decided that the best thing for them is to wipe out all of those who are different.

This is a really crappy strategy. It may allow for survival in the short term, but a closed system cannot grow, and will break down once a new survival strategy is needed.

Others do it differently. They open themselves up to others, learn about them, cooperate with them, and love them. This is how we grow as a race, as a gender, as a group with a sexual orientation, as those blessed with intelligence, as a class, or as a species.

In the society that I live in (and much of the world), power has been concentrated in the hands of a certain combination of the things I listed above: the white, cisgender male, straight, intelligent, upper class, financially well off human being. The way that they came to and stayed in power was by using a combination of the two strategies – taking what they needed from the other groups while keeping their boots on their necks.

Me? I fall into four out of six of those “power categories”. I recognize that because I do, if life were a video game, I’d be playing on easy-mode (not my concept – and I really wish I could find my source for that idea).

This isn’t a single player game. It’s massive, it’s multiplayer, and we’re all on the same team. People like me, no matter how much they feel like they are losing when someone in another group gets something, really aren’t, and it’s my responsibility to use what I have to help my overall team – not just those who are “like me”, but all of them.

This isn’t some benevolent version of the White Man’s Burden. It’s a recognition of the privilege I’ve been given and my desire to walk hand in hand with my team – all of the residents of this Pale Blue Dot.

At the very least, I can stay out of their way.

You aren’t so different from “the others”. You aren’t an alien. The fact that you can read this tells us that we are more like each other than we can ever understand.

Express your uniqueness, while also celebrating the things that allow us to move forward – our differences.

 

Voting For Yourself (like you live in Chicago)

For a few months now, I’ve been using an app called “Randomly RemindMe.” I’ve set it up so that, up to 20 times a day, my phone will pop a message up containing a short, useful bit of wisdom.

Here are some examples of short phrases I’ve used:

The saying that has been on there for the longest now (and still my favorite) is:

“Who Are You Becoming.”

I got the idea from Atomic Habits by James Clear. One of the main points of the book is that everything we do is a vote for the kind of person we want to become.

Smoke a cigarette? That’s a vote for being someone who doesn’t care about their well being.

Go for a run? You are voting for being someone who lives a healthy lifestyle.

Short with your spouse? Voting yourself into being a shitty life partner.

Tackle a project you aren’t sure you’re up to? You just got a vote for living a courageous life.

Beating up on yourself or ruminating on smoking a cigarette or being short with your spouse? Now you’re voting for being someone who spends more time thinking about shit than doing something about said shit.

You get the idea.

This stuff is easy to forget, which is why the reminder app helps. But even that has it’s problems – it’s so easy to just swipe away the notification, rather than spend 5 seconds thinking about what we are voting for in the moment. Of course, doing that is a vote for becoming someone who would rather go through the personal development motions than actually apply this stuff. (doh!)

Here’s the cool thing: it’s like voting in Chicago. You get to do it early and often. You get as many votes as you want. As a matter of fact, you can’t help but vote over and over and over again.

Whatever you are doing right now is a vote for being the person that you are right now. If you’re cool with that – great! If not, you get to vote differently right now. And now. And now.

Get out the vote!

[image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/users/pjedrzejczyk-9849537/]

Add On:

It’s a few hours later and I was just thinking about this post – I think it slanted a bit too much to the “If you aren’t voting for who you want to be, change it!” side. I didn’t  highlight the other side of the coin enough – when you catch yourself voting for who you do want to be. When that happens, make sure that you give your brain a good “That’s Like Me!“. It’ll help you remember to vote the way you really want to the next time.

 

Obligatory New Year’s Day Post

Blah blah blah full of promise.

Blah blah blah anything is possible.

Blah blah blah you can do it!

… No.

Being jaded isn’t any more helpful than being unrealistic. It’s just as much of a shield for our stupid little egos as Pollyannaism.

Every time someone says “I’m going to [insert creating a better life action here]”, the only proper response, whether it’s a new year’s resolution or not, is…

“That’s Fan-Fucking-Tastic.”

Because “I’m going to…” is the start of everything. It’s the first step. Don’t worry about whether they take that second step. But if they do… “Awesome! More Fan-Fucking-Tasticness!”

If they don’t… it’s none of your fucking business (unless they’ve specifically asked you to call them out on it.)

And if they don’t take that second step *and* you find yourself judging them for it, there is only one proper response for that as well:

Turn that judgement back on yourself.

What haven’t you followed through on?

What could you be doing better?

What haven’t you even started because you are scared to?

Then follow through, do better, get started.

Happy New Year!